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I have two computers. Lets call them A and B. Both are on the same Workgroup (at least I think they are as far as I can see the workgroup names match). Both are running Windows XP Pro SP3. B is fully up to date, A is in the process of being updated as it's a new installation (the previous incarnation of A died).

A can see B on the network and can browse to B's shared folders. I don't need to enter any user credentials to do this.

B can see A exists but won't browse to A's shared folders or even list them until I enter the credentials of a user on A.

I'm certain it's not the firewall settings I have set it to allow all local network traffic.

I don't think it's anything to do with the way I have shared the folders as I have to enter the credentials before I can even see the shares, let alone browse to them.

Everything I've checked so far indicates that I've enabled File and Printer Sharing on A, but I didn't do this explicitly when I installed the OS.

What else do I need to do on A to allow B to see it's shares without needing a user id and password?

I should add that before I had to rebuild A the two computers could browse each others shared folders just fine. There's clearly something I've forgotten to do this time round.

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i presume you've disabled "simple file sharing" on both? frankly i'd finish your updates on A and see what the situation is then. one thing at a time. :) – quack quixote Mar 4 '10 at 22:19
@~quack - Yes, simple file sharing is disabled on both. I'm 99% certain I've finished the OS updates on A, it's just updating Visual Studio at the moment. – ChrisF Mar 4 '10 at 22:20
I'm assuming this worked before the previous version of A died? Are the usernames/passwords the same as the were previously? – heavyd Mar 4 '10 at 22:27
@heavyd: even if usernames & passwords were the same, A very likely has a different SID?GUID/whatever. machineIDs and userIDs are practically guaranteed not to be the same on the new install. – quack quixote Mar 4 '10 at 22:32
@heavyd - Yes it all worked previously. I'm reasonably sure that that the user names and passwords are the same, but I have created extra limited accounts for the kids on the new A so I could have entered different data. Unfortunately B is next to the kids bedrooms and as it's late (UK time) I can't double check right now. – ChrisF Mar 4 '10 at 22:32
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I've worked out what's going on here. It's down to the accounts set up on each machine and their passwords. Thanks to heavyd for putting me on the right track.

Machine B (the older installation) has two Admin accounts B1 and B2

Machine A (the new installation) has two Admin accounts A1 and A2, plus a number of User accounts (which don't affect the behaviour but are relevant).

The user names and passwords on accounts A1 and B1 match. The user names on accounts A2 and B2 match, but the passwords don't.

A can see B because I'm logged in with account A1 (where everything matches B1).

B can't see A because I'm logged in with account B2 where the names match but the passwords don't. The reason they don't is because I'm locking down the accounts on A to stop the kids installing random stuff, so I'm keeping the password to A1 secret. I will be adding User accounts to B when I do a full OS reinstall in a couple of weeks time. When I do I'll set the accounts so that their names and passwords match those on A.

The primary account on B is B2 and I had forgotten that I'd set account B1 to have the same password as the new A1 account. Hence my confusion.

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Home or Pro? (If computer A is running XP Pro, maybe you need to turn on simple file sharing to bypass the login.)

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Both are running XP Pro. I'll update the question. – ChrisF Mar 4 '10 at 22:21

There are two possibilities that jump out at me offhand.

  1. In your old setup, shares on A gave read access to Everyone, so just browsing from B to a share on A connected as the Guest user and could see the shares. In your new setup, the Everyone permissions are missing, so A is not accepting the Guest user.

  2. In your old setup, B mapped a share from A to a network drive (with the "reconnect at logon" option checked), and you provided the username and password when you created the mapping. Browsing A worked "passwordless" because B had already logged in. In your new setup, you haven't mapped that share yet, so browsing isn't passwordless.

Do either of those situations sound familiar?

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1. Everyone has read access to the shared folders on A. 2. I haven't set up any network drives on either machine. I'd have gone with 1. if I could browse to A but not get into the shared folders, but I can't even see what A has shared. This makes me think the problem is at the computer level rather than the folder level. – ChrisF Mar 4 '10 at 22:35
well, i think XP's networking will not even browse if the guest user isn't allowed to see any of the shares, but i admit i'm rusty. on my home network the XP machines mount drives from the Samba server and don't share out stuff between themselves. – quack quixote Mar 4 '10 at 22:51

By default, on computers that are running Windows XP Professional and that have not joined to a domain, all incoming network connections are forced to use the Guest account. (

Normally, the net guest account is enabled by default, but you could try, in a command prompt: NET USER GUEST If it's disabled for one reason or another, use NET USER GUEST /active:yes

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Ah - I haven't done anything with the Guest account on the new A. Another good line of inquiry. Will check tonight when I get home. – ChrisF Mar 5 '10 at 8:48
Both machines Guest accounts are off. – ChrisF Mar 7 '10 at 16:27

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